St. Anthony's Rebecca Musgrove is Newsday's Suffolk Player of the Year

St. Anthony's Rebecca Musgrove dribbles through midcourt during

St. Anthony's Rebecca Musgrove dribbles through midcourt during the fourth quarter. (March 1, 2013) (Credit: James Escher)

Neon green sneakers and black kneepads.

A combination more befitting a skateboarder, perhaps, but in a way, it was the perfect sartorial description of Rebecca Musgrove, the basketball player.

The sneakers: "I like to stand out,'' Musgrove said. The color, by the way, didn't exactly jibe with St. Anthony's black-and- gold uniforms. But "I like to be different. You'll definitely see me on the court."

Musgrove never shied from the big stage, the big moment, the big shot . . . she wasn't shy about much, really.

The senior was a stalwart in the resurgence of St. Anthony's girls basketball, and this season averaged 16.2 points, 5.1 rebounds, 3.7 steals and 2.2 assists in leading the Friars to the state CHSAA Class AA playoffs.

Those accomplishments, and more, earned the shooting guard Newsday's Suffolk Player of the Year.

Musgrove, 17, recalled her first time in the St. Anthony's gymnasium as a freshman, looking up at the old championship banners. "We hadn't won since 1988,'' Musgrove said. "My dad told coach [Ken] Parham that first day that when we're done, there'll be a few more banners hanging up. That always stuck with me.''

Parham, a bit bashful, having just taken over the program then, said his response to the bold prediction was: "Easier said than done.''

Four seasons later, Rebecca Musgrove is an All-State star headed to Brown University, a two-time All-Long Island selection and St. Anthony's career leader in points (1,284).

Oh, and three more banners are up.

A few memorable moments from this season: Musgrove's 11 points and 10 rebounds leading the Friars over top-seeded St. Mary's to capture a third straight CHSAA title. Scoring 22 points to spark a dramatic comeback and beat rival St. John the Baptist, 44-40, in the semifinals. Her 12 points and 10 rebounds leading the charge in a non-league victory over powerhouse Long Island Lutheran in December.

Clearly, there was substance behind the swagger: undeniable talent coupled with an insatiable desire to succeed. Last year, improving her jumper was the offseason focus. So Musgrove's regimen included workouts to improve leg strength along with 500 shots a day in the backyard.

"Whenever I'd text her after school, it'd be, 'I'm about to go outside and shoot,''' teammate Tyla Parham said of Musgrove. "Her work ethic is what stood out most, and her trying so hard set an example for everyone. She's the epitome of a captain.''

And an admitted perfectionist with a 96 average and aspirations of a career in business.

The kneepads: "They're more for protection, but over time I learned to use them as a tool,'' said Musgrove, who has played in them since sixth grade. "I can slide on the floor when going for a loose ball.''

Hustle and physicality were her signatures and, at 5-8, an unrelenting style in driving to the basket and absorbing contact. Still, she has started every game since the ninth grade.

"She plays harder than anyone I've ever coached,'' Parham said. "No matter the circumstances, she went hard, without regard or remorse for her body.''

More so than the flash and flair, Musgrove's career was marked by grit; those reckless dives for loose balls: the face plants and hard crashes onto the court. She was the scrappy superstar who traded bruises for victories, and smiled.

"I take a hit, get up and give it right back,'' she said. "I've never been afraid to fall.''

And thus she rose.

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